February 10, 2019

The Argument for Automatic Email Responses

automatic email responses

I just returned home from an eight-day vacation to Montego Bay, Jamaica. Before leaving Pennsylvania for my tropical respite from work and winter, I set my automatic reply on my email. It's what most people do when they will be out of the office for an extended time, correct?

But just because many of us set up auto-responses, does it make it the right thing to do?

To Auto-Respond or Not Auto-Respond

Years ago, my former mentor (and a brilliant man) Jeffrey Gitomer wrote an article about the evils of out-of-office replies and how they can potentially hurt your business. In the post, he calls automatic responses "rude"(and, later, "stupid"... and then later, “self-serving”). He urges people to “quit doing this.”

He refers to his calling us out on this issue as a “cold slap in the face.”

Indeed. Ouch!

My Take on the Subject

I think Jeffrey may have gone a bit far, especially in denouncing even auto-replies that provide customers with the contact information of someone who can help them in their hour of need. I fail to see what’s wrong with that.

However, I do agree with him about this:

“When someone sends you an email, in most cases they expect a reply within 24 hours. Sometimes, the same day.”

True! And, in my industry especially, time is of the essence. That’s why I have a Strella team member who will be readily available to handle any time-sensitive requests when I’m out of the office.

Auto-responding and Strella Social Media Core Values

With customer service and communication as two of our company’s core values, I would never think of leaving the office without making sure that someone will handle customer inquiries AND that customers know who will be there to help them.

Well before my vacation leave, I communicated my travel plans to our clients and our vendors. My team and I held a virtual meeting to prepare for the inquiries that might come from our customers and our internal team while I was out.

I then set up my automatic email reply to reinforce what I shared with customers and vendors and to ensure they knew who they could contact. I believe an automatic response is a wise move as long as it serves a purpose and offers the information clients need to have their questions or concerns addressed.

If it were true, as Jeffrey suggests, that my competition will benefit from my generating an auto-reply, I'm willing to take that risk. Vacations are meant to reduce stress and mentally and physically regroup. We can't do that if we stay always connected to our work and never take a break.

Automatic Replies With Personality

As I was thinking about auto-replies, I began to recall some of the entertaining automated responses I’ve received from clients in the past. Just for fun, I’m going to share my top three favorites with you.

#3.

Hello, friend.

 I am currently out of the office trekking in an RV with my wife, kids, and my in-laws to Canada. Probably either the worst or best decision I have ever made (I kid—my in-laws are fantastic). 

 If you need something while I am out, please contact Stevi—she is great and can take care of your need or can tell you who can. Otherwise, I will reply to your email when I return on Monday the 23rd, eh? See, Canada is rubbing off on me already. 

 #2.

I am out of the office spending time with family and skiing (mainly skiing). I'll be checking emails when I return to the office January 2nd.

#1

Sorry. Alex won't be able to answer your email today. Yesterday we gave him one task too many and, well, he kinda freaked out. Last we saw him, he had declared himself "Pipi the Iguana King" and was demanding three cans of peas from everyone in the finance department.

He should be back on Monday, 6/11, though he might be heavily sedated.

Best wishes and be safe.

Well played, no?

Do You Use Auto-Replies When You’re Out of the Office?

Your turn! Write a comment with your answer. I’d love to hear your reasons why or why not. And if you’ve crafted a clever automatic reply, feel free to share it!

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